Seth Bogart used to be a hairdresser. He spent close to a decade working on clients in the Oakland area. Even after he moved to Los Angeles about four years ago, he traveled back to the Bay Area for occasional appointments.
Eventually, he was able to put down the scissors, but memories of the salon have stayed with the musician and artist better known as Hunx, from his bands Gravy Train!!! and Hunx and His Punx. As Hunx, he made a 2012 solo album called Hairdresser Blues that was accompanied by a commercial featuring lots of hair and hand-decorated cans of cream and goop.
“I'm obsessed with making fake hair salons and tanning products and now I'm really into pantyhose for men and combs,” the 35-year-old says, describing the visual art that now takes up at least as much of his attention as his music. Last year, in a Chinatown gallery, he set up an installation that looked like a vanity, with sculptures of blowdryers and beauty products.
“I think aesthetically, I've always been drawn to packaging and products, combs and blowdryers, all that,” Bogart says. He doesn't miss the hair world, though. “I was really into it and then I got worse and worse and less caring about it,” he says. “It got to the point where I didn't give a shit if someone was unhappy. I felt bad, but I was like, I don't care.”
In Bogart's work, the remnants of salon life mix with objects of musical obsession. In the corner of the vanity that appeared last summer was a Miley Cyrus ticket stub and a Bikini Kill button. His clothing line, Wacky Wacko, features T-shirts with his drawings of artists like Marc Almond, Lil Kim and Darby Crash. In his art, pop meets punk is a cult-y collision that's a lot like his music.
In Oakland, not long after the start of the 21st century, Bogart was part of a group called Gravy Train!!!! They crashed parties and became friends with drummer Molly Neuman, who invited the band on tour her group, Bratmobile. One of their first shows was at the Troubadour. “Suddenly, we were playing real venues,” he recalls. “It was so weird. It was fun.”
Gravy Train!!!! hit right at the time of electroclash, when the indie rock and dance music worlds converged. Their synth-driven punk sound garnered a cult following that grew with releases through revered indie label Kill Rock Stars.
When that band ended, Bogart launched Hunx and His Punx, which mined '60s pop and garage-rock influences with songs like “Lovers Lane” and “You Don't Like Rock 'n' Roll,” then released the indie rock-leaning Hairdresser Blues simply as Hunx. In early 2016, he'll release a solo album as Seth Bogart. (“It's my first adult thing,” he says.) The upcoming release is the inspiration for his first solo art show, which will open at 356 Mission on Sept. 3.
When Bogart conceived of the new music project, the idea was that he would tour on his own with videos behind him. So he got a warehouse space and started making sets to use in those videos. Quickly, however, he decided that the props deserved more than just screen time.
Inspired heavily by Pee-wee's Playhouse, Bogart's show is a multimedia extravaganza that brings together sculpture, painting and music videos. Some of the videos were created for his performance at Loud and Proud Festival in France last July, others are new. He plans on playing those repeatedly alongside commercials for fictional products.
Bogart is relatively new to visual art. While he has long enjoyed drawing and painting, it wasn't until two years ago that he took a painting class through Art Center at Night. “I kind of got this weird feeling a couple years ago — I never went to college, did I miss out?” he explains, on a rare day off from building props for his show. “I took one class and I was like, no, I don't need to go to school. I do like to take classes here and there. It's really fun.”
The class did help push his work forward. “I didn't know that buying expensive paint was a good thing and important. I always used whatever is cheapest, which I'm into, too.”
Not long before he took that painting class, Bogart started Wacky Wacko. It was intended to be a record label, but he quickly lost interest in that idea. Later on, he returned to the idea as a clothing company and brought in a friend to help design some shirts. “It kind of became my job right away,” he says.
There's a physical Wacky Wacko shop on Sunset in Echo Park, but Bogart says they operate with “diva hours,” remaining open only on Saturday afternoons, if they are open at all. “It's more of our art studio and headquarters,” he explains. The clothing brand was particularly popular at RuPaul's DragCon last spring, where young, fashionable people could be seen roaming the floors holding large Wacky Wacko shopping bags.
Sometimes, Bogart will see his shirts on random people and, if it's one of his own Hunx pieces, he admits to getting a little bashful. “I saw a girl at Whole Foods wearing one and her boyfriend was looking at me,” he says. “They were at the aisle next to me checking out and then I got my stuff and ran out.” Then there was a trip to Provincetown, Massachusetts, where he saw a guy on the beach in a Hunx shirt. “I just put my head down because I get so shy.”
Bogart seems most at ease when he's talking about his own interests as a fan. He gushes over Provincetown performer Dina Martina and L.A.-based comedian Julie Brown. A lot of his work is based on fan art and depicts LGBT and feminist icons. “That's what I want to put out into the world,” he says. “Just stuff I love, tributes to my favorite pop stars.”
These days, Bogart's only hairdressing clients are his boyfriend and his dog. “She has really good bangs because of me,” he says of the terrier-poodle that he rescued. “My boyfriend doesn't like when I cut them though, because he feels like she hates it. But I think she likes it.”